Vacation rental

Jim and Rebecca Raatz of Waverly sit on the porch of their Clear Lake vacation rental home.

CLEAR LAKE — Officials in Clear Lake are considering measures to regulate single-family homes used as vacation rentals.

City Administrator Scott Flory on Tuesday got the nod from the City Council to create a work group of city staff and local residents to draft a proposed ordinance.

Topics the group might consider would be occupancy thresholds, a permitting system, parking availability and ways to hold property owners accountable for continually loud or rowdy renters, excessive garbage or other nuisances, Flory said.

“What I think we’re lacking is in terms of these short-term vacation rentals is a system to hold property owners, homeowners, more accountable for their guests,” he said.

The work group will likely discuss ramifications, such as fines or permit revocation that could be imposed against owners of properties found in violation of any ordinance that is proposed.

“I don’t think over the years it’s been a huge issue in Clear Lake, but I think it’s becoming more and more of an issue and I think it’s going to become a bigger business in Clear Lake as time goes on,” Flory said. “I think you’ll see a proliferation of these opportunities.”

The popular vacation rental website VBRO.com listed 23 rentals in Clear Lake. All but one was listed as being managed by the owners.

Another site, Airbnb.com, had another 23 listings for Clear Lake and surrounding towns. Some also are listed on Craigslist.com.

Offerings included condos, houses and cabins.

Clear Lake property owners Jim and Rebecca Raatz, of Waverly, say they wouldn’t be against “reasonable” regulations. They began renting out a two-bedroom home this year they bought from a family member.

Jim Raatz said the tidy house on 14th Street North is often rented by people visiting family members. The couple drives from Waverly to clean the home between rentals.

“We keep it even better for our renters than ourselves, and so we feel like we’re improving the neighborhood by doing that,” Jim Raatz said.

Clear Lake property manager Sonja Muhm said landlords can help police themselves by stringently vetting potential renters.

Muhm has a list of rules for potential renters at the two homes she manages for Lake-Iowa Realty and three of her own she uses for vacation rentals.

“I have limits and I have turned people away because of those limits,” said Muhm, a real estate agent. “I have had people offer to put tents in my yard. The answer is no.”

City Council members Tony Nelson and Mike Callanan, as well as Mayor Nelson Crabb, told Flory they supported exploring an ordinance.

“I’d say let’s look into it because I’ve had a personal experience with this, actually this last weekend,” Nelson said of short-term rentals.

Councilman Gary Hugi, however, questioned how big of a problem nuisance rentals are and who would police a new ordinance.

“Ultimately, it is the property owner’s responsibility no matter what happens on that property,” he said.

Although Flory said it isn’t the motivation for implementing regulations, he said permitting and tracking vacation rentals might find some owners who aren’t paying the required hotel-motel tax.

Like hotels, property owners who rent their homes for less than a month are required to pay a 7 percent tax to the city. Proceeds from the voter-approved tax are used to fund tourism promotion, lake-improvement efforts and economic development.

The tax generated approximately $225,000 in the 2015-16 fiscal year

Homeowner Kelly Fricker, of Kansas City, pays the tax on rentals at her vacation home on North Shore Drive. Because she’s already paying the tax, she hopes any fee the city comes up with for a rental permit, if any, is reasonable and takes that into consideration.

If that’s the case, Fricker said, she doesn’t have an issue with Clear Lake trying to set ground rules for vacation rentals.

“It’s a small town that’s trying to maintain its integrity, a certain ambiance,” she said.

No vote was taken Tuesday. There was no timetable on when the work group could deliver a proposal to the council.

 

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